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PRESS RELEASE 7 FEBRUARY, 2001


PLANNING APPEALS BOARD REFUSES MCALEESE HOUSE


FIE welcomes An Bord Pleanala's refusal of permission for Martin MacAleese's proposed dwelling house.


The three grounds given by The Board on the basis of the appeal by An Taisce - visual and environmental amenity, ecological significance, and potential pollution - were also the basis of the FIE appeal. We fully accept that our Inspector made an error and identified a site 400 metres along the shoreline from the proposed dwelling and that the Board was within its rights in dismissing our appeal. Our Inspector's error, however, only emphasises the pressure on these remote locations.


FIE hopes Roscommon County Council will accept the Board's decision as a precedent for other similar sites, including the one our Inspector identified, and that it will no longer be necessary to lodge further appeals to protect Lough Eiden and its unique surroundings.

RTE Radio 1

The Pat Kenny Show, February 8, 2001

An Bord Pleanala refuses McAleese house


Pat Kenny, Presenter

Frank McDonald, Irish Times Environmental Correspondent
The Decision of the Board of 6 February:



The site of the proposed development is located in a remote, elevated and exposed rural area of high visual amenity in close proximity to the shore of Lough Eiden (Dromharlow). It is an objective of the planning authority, as set out in the current Roscommon County Development Plan, to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity. This objective is considered to be reasonable. The proposed development would be visually obtrusive, would contravene materially this objective and would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area.


The proposed development is located close to the shore of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). It is an objective of the planning authority, as set out in the current Roscommon County Development Plan, to protect this area of ornithological and ecological importance, which objective is considered to be reasonable. Having regard to the siting and use of the jetty on the shoreline and the location of the dwelling in close proximity to the lake, it is considered that the proposed development would conflict with this objective and would be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area.


Having regard to the sloping nature of the site down to the lake, the ground conditions on the site, including the high water table as indicated by soil suitability tests and to the proximity of the effluent treatment system to the lake, it is considered that notwithstanding the proprietary effluent treatment system, the proposed development would constitute an unacceptable risk of the pollution to the lake and would be prejudicial to public health.



INTERVIEW


PK: …about the President's plans for a lakeside house turned down by An Bord Pleanala.


FMcD: Well, it's a bit of a shock, really, isn't it…


PK: It certainly is.


FMcD: …I was cycling up Kildare Street yesterday morning to an EPA Press Conference in Buswells and my mobile phone rang and it was Tony Lowes from the Friends of the Irish Environment who said "Guess What? An Bord Pleanala has just refused planning permission for the President's house in Roscommon!".


PK: Friends of the Irish Environment, they objected too…


FMcD: They objected too…


PK: But they were rejected by An Bord Pleanala…


FMcD: Well, it turned out, really, they had made the mistake in inspecting the wrong site…


PK: (Chuckling nastily) Ha ha.


FMcD: …some 400 meters down the shoreline and this was spotted by the President's planning consultant, Bernard McHugh, who pointed it out to the Board and as a result the Board dismissed the Friend's appeal but it upheld An Taisce's appeal because An Taisce had lodged a separate appeal on the issue and as a result the Board made this extraordinary decision, really, to refuse planning permission to the McAleeses on the shores of Lough Eiden.


PK: Now just to describe it, Frank. I have your diagram which is put together by the Irish Times Studio in the paper this morning and it looks like a lovely house.


FMcD: (Sharply indrawn breath) Well, I don't think it's a great house now…


PK: I mean I'm only looking at the plan, I don't have an elevation, I'm just looking at the plan, but I mean the whole layout, they have…


FMcD: Well the elevation is very disappointing now, I have to say. It's a neo-traditional country house with a kind of a Georgian fan-lighted doorway with an inset fan light in the door itself - its very boring, actually, to be honest. It was actually designed by a Building Surveyor from Carrick on Shannon rather than a professionally qualified architect and that was one of my criticisms of it…


PK: But at the same time I mean there are many houses that would be less distinct than that.


FMcD: Oh yes, certainly - and many that would be more ostentatious too with big flying porticos and all the rest of it, but…


PK: Would this house - it might have disappointed your architectural sensibilities but it wouldn't have offended them particularly?


FMcD: Not really. I just think the President could have done better in terms of the design. But it wasn't on design grounds, now let's be clear, that An Bord Pleanala refused permission. The grounds that were cited by the Board were visual impact - they pointed out in their decision that the site chosen for the house was in a "remote elevated and exposed rural area of high visual amenity in close proximity to the shore" of this lake on the Shannon system…


PK: Looking though at the map, now the planting probably wouldn't have taken place but I mean…


FMcD: (Shocked) Oh I'm sure the planting - the planting was part of the planning permission.


PK: No but I'm saying the planting wouldn't be there now, not will they be there, and its really screened entirely by trees with a little gap in the trees and a pathway down to the jetty.


FMcD: That's right, yes.


PK: So I mean it wouldn't probably be visually apparent after a short while.


FMcD: But the Board thought it would and said that it would be visually obtrusive in the area and would contravene the County Council's objective to prohibit development that would be detrimental to environmental amenity and they also said - and this is kind of a real slap in the face - it referred to the sloping nature of the site with its high water table and it said that not withstanding the use of an effluent treatment system the development would quote "constitute an unacceptable risk of pollution to the lake and would be prejudicial to public health." I mean when I read the decision I thought "Would this happen to the Queen of England?". I mean its almost inconceivable…


PK: Ummm…


FMcD: …that the planning authorities in Britain would refuse planning permission to the Head of State - and yet this is what happened in this case. Now admittedly the application was lodged by the President's husband, Dr. Martin McAleese, but he did give his address as Aras an Uachtarain..


PK: My goodness! It really is shocking, as I say. Now they will have their grounds, obviously, I mean the visual thing you could quarrel with because if the planting took place as outlined by the person who lodged the planning permission there would be precious little of it visible in time - now you have to say in time, when the trees matured. But in terms of the threat to the environment, I mean when you consider the slurry pits and all the other things that are allowed to stay open in spite of offending again and again against nature and the environment…


FMcD: Yes but you know we have had a terrible problem with bungalow blitz in this country. In fact Ian Lumley from An Taisce, An Taisce's Heritage Officer, has actually said that because of the Celtic Tiger phenomenon that its no longer "bungalow blitz" its "mansion mania" that's hitting the country now.


PK: Now this is only 2,000 square feet - this is not exactly mansion, let's put this in perspective.


FMcD: No no no, but it's a substantial house, you know. Most houses would be about only half that size and don't forget that it comes with outbuildings of equivalent size plus car parking, a boat mooring jetty and a small sewage treatment plant so it's a substantial development.


PK: It's modest.


FMcD: It's, well, it, no it…


PK: I mean for a for a President, she intends to live there after her term expires if she doesn't run again or is compelled to run again.


FMcD: I'm not sure that I would describe it as modest. A house of 2,200 square feet is not…


PK: Frank, there are pent houses where you live in Temple Bar that are that size.


FMcD: No no there aren't, actually.


PK: Awh, there are! I saw some advertised recently and certainly in Dublin city centre there are…


FMcD: Oh no, nothing of that size, not that I'm aware of, but anyway lets not quibble about that.


PK: But Frank the site is three whaaaa - how many acres do they have?


FMcD: They have about 30 acres. Their options are now to fund a less sensitive location on that 30 acre site that would be less visually obtrusive and would meet the requirements of Bord Pleanala. But I think that the Board in making this decision was kind of sending out a message about its own independence you that says "Look, we refuse planning permission even for the Head of State."


PK: Well, if that is there motivation…


FMcD: No I'm not saying that is their motivation .


PK: …that is a small minded and mean spirited motivation, if that's what you're saying.


FMcD: No, I don't - what I'm saying is that it does send out the message that the Board is independent. I'm not saying that that was the Board's motive but it does send out that message. It sends out the same kind of message as Mr. Justice Smith, in his sentencing Liam Lawler, that nobody stands above the law and similarly the Board is basically saying, "Look, nobody stands above the planning laws either and if we think that such and such a development is not up to scratch, we'll refuse…


PK: But Frank, you know yourself that its not simply the letter of the law, if you drive at 65 miles an hour in a 60 mile zone its very clear cut, you are 5 miles an hour outside the law. In terms of these rules and regulations, its down to interpretation and all it would require is someone to take a view "This would be a great time for us to teach the President and anyone else a but of a lesson…"


FMcD: Well I don't know if that's the case, certainly Roscommon County Council's interpretation is different to the Board's because Roscommon County Council did grant permission for the scheme. The Board took a different view and the Board's view is the one that prevailed because of the appeals that were lodged.


PK: Well the only thing you can say about the Board is that the Board is constantly changing entity. There are different people nominated from time to time because I would have to say in the history of the Board over the years they have allowed monstrosities to prevail, so I mean just in the catalogue of monstrosities this would be a very small fish indeed would it not?


FMcD (Sighs) Yes but the Board does have a record, a fairly strong record, for refusing permission for individual houses in high amenity areas. I mean that is, now, obviously the Board only deals with a small fraction of that category of development, but there's no question about the Board's record in that regard. They do tend to turn these things down.


PK: In fairness to the President, I mean, their spokesperson has said listen, we'll look at the file, we're disappointed, obviously, we'll look at the file and see what we're going to do about it. It might be a question of shifting it back a bit or whatever.


FMcD: Exactly. That is probably the option that will be most closely studied by the President and her advisors.


PK: Jane has been, or Joan, has been on, she wants to know why Pat thinks its shocking that the planning permission was refused, is he implying that because it's the President, it should be granted? Well there are two elements. One, looking at the sketch, and I don't have the plans, as proposed by the Irish Times Studio, that's all I have. When I saw sewage treatment plant I thought well there's the environmental thing sorted anyway - when I saw the trees I thought well visually I can't see the impairment there, so I'm at a bit of a loss to understand the logic on those two grounds of the Planning Appeals Board but again I don't have the file either so that's one reason why I'm a bit shocked, and also Frank you used the term that you were shocked as well.


I think there are sometimes special considerations. For example if you were the Minister for Justice they might allow you to erect a security house at your gate…


FMcD: (Grunts) Umh.


PK: Whereas if you are Frank McDonald, they won't.


FMcD: Of course not, why should they?


PK: So I mean there are special considerations. When someone is President - and an ex-President perhaps - there may be elements of security, particularly in an area not a million miles from the border you know there are all sorts of reasons why the President or the Minister for Justice or a Judge of the Special Criminal Court might get special consideration.


FMcD: Yes, but I mean obviously the President didn't get special consideration in this case. I mean the Board has refused planning permission and it has come as a terrible blow to the McAleese family and their plans, because…


PK: How about this one from Carmel, Frank?


FMcD: Yes?


PK: And I know you were big on this one as well. Carmel is just appalled that they would turn down permission for a country house for President McAleese when two miles up the road or three on the Shannon they gave full permission for a 15 acre covered in factory called Masonite.


FMcD: This is true.


PK: So I mean people would have a right to say, like Ok the President is not providing jobs except for perhaps a gardener and Masonite is providing a lot of jobs but where are we coming from…


FMcD: And causing a deal of pollution as well, by the way, it should be pointed out.


PK: So I mean what are we doing here? You know it does seem disproportionate in a place that would benefit probably hugely from having as former President living there.


FMcD: Well, it's a question of interpretation as you say. I mean the Board's ruling does lay down a cautionary marker for others with plans for individual houses in environmentally sensitive locations and it may have some influence in making certain local authorities with far too liberal policies in this area to think twice about their decisions. That's what I would hope as a result of it because the countryside in Ireland is being destroyed by individual one off houses that are springing up everywhere. They account for about 20% of the total national output of private housing in this country and that is just deeply unsustainable.


PK: But do they want President McAleese therefore to live in a flat?


FMcD: I'm not - nobody would suggest that but I mean there were specific reasons cited by the Board in this case and the President's spokeswoman made it clear yesterday that they respected the Board's decision and there's no grounds for appeal on a legal point as far as I can see - they're just going to have to go back to the drawing boards. You know it is worth highlighting that whole issue of individual houses in rural locations. What is going to happen to the Irish countryside? What is the future of the landscape going to be? Are we just going to cover it all in houses?


PK: Do you not think the President is a special case?


FMcD: Well, you see that goes back to the point. Is everyone equal before the law or not?


PK: Well quite clearly they're not Frank. The Minister for Justice doing a hundred miles an hour - or his car doing a hundred miles an hour, clearly - I mean there are all sorts of anomalies in the law…


FMcD: Yes…


PK: …and there are all sorts of special cases like people who are allowed to bear firearms for example in this country…


FMcD: And furthermore one would have to accept that a lot of people in this country regard the legislation that we have - or a lot of the legislation that we have - as aspirational in character - but here's a decision made under the Planning Acts and it's a decision that speaks for itself.


PK: All I was trying to point out is that the Planning Acts given that they go down at the end of the day sometimes to the judgement of individuals rather than like 5 miles over the law…


FMcD: Yeh but some of these…


PK: (Sneeringly) …you're talking about "visual amenity"…


FMcD: Yes but somebody has to make a decision and the Board is the properly constituted body to make such decisions…


PK: Even though in the past Boards, appointed by Ministers, have made appalling decisions.


FMcD: Yes, but on the other hand don't forget that this Board is not appointed by the Minister and hasn't been since 1984 when it was reconstituted. The Board operates as an independent agency with the local Government…


PK: How are people appointed to it?


FMcD: People are appointed at arm's length. There's a whole elaborate procedure for appointing people. It's not just a question of filling it with Minister's hacks.


PK: All right. Brian Donings been on . "At the main entrance to Aras an Uachtarain there are two gate lodges. Both are quite small with extensions. The extensions are the ugliest looking things Brian has ever seen and the Board of Works were responsible for these.


FMcD: Yeah this is true, yeah.


PK: (Chuckles)


FMcD: Well I mean we can throw anomalies at each other until the cows come home but the point is that the countryside in Ireland is under threat from unrestricted urban generated housing development and the Board has set down a clear marker in relation to that where it occurs in a designated high amenity area and its basically saying "even though this is scheme by the President and her family we don't think it stands up environmentally and so we're going to refuse permission and we have."


PK: All right, so at the end of the day, though, the President or ex-President is Jo Citizen.


FMcD: Exactly. And that's as it should be. Wouldn't you not agree?


PK: Oh I would agree, yeah, but I do think they do allow certain anomalous things to be done…


FMcD: Awh Pat, you're indulging in special pleading now. (Laughs.)


PK: No I'm just saying they do. They do, they do, they do…


FMcD: Yes, I take the point of the listener about Masonite. I mean Masonite is real in your face stuff on the banks of the River Shannon…


PK: Now that was built since 1984 so…


FMcD: Of course it was and it was approved by the Board as well, you know, some year ago. But don't forget there had been no industrial development in County Roscommon - sorry - County Leitrim and that Leitrim was only gummin for Masonite and that's one of the main reasons it went through - because its one of the major employment generators in the area and the same could not be said of the President's house.


PK: Isn't that called special pleading too.


FMcD: I suppose it is, yeah.


PK: Ha ha ha.


FMcD: There you are now.


PK: (Laughs) There you are now. (Laughs again) Ha ha. Ok Frank, thank you very much for talking to us and for breaking that story in this morning's The Irish Times. There you are.


ENDS

(c) RTE Radio


PRESS RELEASE 7 FEBRUARY, 2001


PLANNING APPEALS BOARD REFUSES MCALEESE HOUSE


FIE welcomes An Bord Pleanala's refusal of permission for Martin MacAleese's proposed dwelling house.


The three grounds given by The Board on the basis of the appeal by An Taisce - visual and environmental amenity, ecological significance, and potential pollution - were also the basis of the FIE appeal. We fully accept that our Inspector made an error and identified a site 400 metres along the shoreline from the proposed dwelling and that the Board was within its rights in dismissing our appeal. Our Inspector's error, however, only emphasises the pressure on these remote locations.


FIE hopes Roscommon County Council will accept the Board's decision as a precedent for other similar sites, including the one our Inspector identified, and that it will no longer be necessary to lodge further appeals to protect Lough Eiden and its unique surroundings.


Decision of An Bord Pleanala PL 20. 121715


Two storey dwelling house, outbuildings, jetty and associated site development works at Kilmacarril Townland, Cootehall, County Roscommon.

1. The site of the proposed development is located in a remote, elevated and exposed rural area of high visual amenity in close proximity to the shore of Lough Eiden (Dromharlow). It is an objective of the planning authority, as set out in the current Roscommon County Development Plan, to prohibit development proposals where they would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity. This objective is considered to be reasonable. The proposed development would be visually obtrusive, would contravene materially this objective and would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area.


2. The proposed development is located close to the shore of Lough Eidin (Drumharlow). It is an objective of the planning authority, as set out in the current Roscommon County Development Plan, to protect this area of ornithological and ecological importance, which objective is considered to be reasonable. Having regard to the siting and use of the jetty on the shoreline and the location of the dwelling in close proximity to the lake, it is considered that the proposed development would conflict with this objective and would be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area.


3. Having regard to the sloping nature of the site down to the lake, the ground conditions on the site, including the high water table as indicated by soil suitability tests and to the proximity of the effluent treatment system to the lake, it is considered that notwithstanding the proprietary effluent treatment system, the proposed development would constitute an unacceptable risk of the pollution to the lake and would be prejudicial to public health.


6 February, 2001


The Inspector's Report is available from the Board three days after its decision.



[NB: This appeal identifies a location some 400 metres from the actual site of the proposed development. The site was misidentified to our inspector as the McAleese site. In fact, no extant planning permssion appears to exist for this site and this appeal was dismissed by An Bord Pleanala while it upheld the same grounds of appeal in the appeal of An Taisce, the National Trust.]



APPEAL AGAINST GRANT OF PLANNING PERMISSION


MARTIN McALEESE, ARAS AN UACHTARAIN, DUBLIN 8

Planning Authority: Roscommon County Council

Reference Number: PD - 00 - 898

Re: Application for two storey holiday home and separate outbuildings, jetty, sewage treatment plant and percolation area

Location: Kilmacarrill, Cootehall, Co. Roscommon

Date of Permission: 14 September, 2000




The Secret Places of The Shannon

The sheer beauty of these waters is almost beyond description. The banks were embroidered with multi-coloured trees, their branches like locks of curly hair; the corn in the FIElds was bending to the soft wind scampering across the landscape; here and there clusters of thirsty flowers drooped their heads to touch the sparkling water; amongst the hedges long fingers of wild honeysuckle spread gusts of exquisite perfume through the air; nets of mystical summer haze enfolded the rolling hills. The whole journey, through the crystal clear Drumharlow lake, dominated by the fairy hills Sheebeg and Sheemore, past the little village of Cootehall, was a sheer delight to body and soul.

John M. Feehan, Royal Carberry Books, 1989



Grounds of Appeal

1. Introduction

2. Inaccurate site map and neighboring site notice

3. Visual & ecological protections

3.1 Development Plan Protection

3.2 Planning History

3.3 Natural Heritage Area

4. Conditions

4.1 Condition 6 re planting

4.2 Condition 10 re residency

4.3 Percolation area levels

5. Proposed Jetty

6. Proposed structures

6.1 Size

6.2 Architecture

7. Conclusion

Appendix I: Natural Heritage Area Site Synopsis


1. Introduction

We have been instructed by Friends of the Irish Environment to appeal the decision of Roscommon County Council to give development consent for this dwelling in a prominent location on the shores of Lough Drumharlow, a proposed Natural Heritage Area [Site Code: 001643]. Lough Drumharlow is on the Boyle River, a major tributary of the Shannon which forms part of the Shannon Waterways navigation system through Knockvicar Lock. It lies between Carrick-on-Shannon, the capital of the Shannon crusing industry, and Lough Key, an area noted for its natural scenery and Forest Park.

The grant of permission is contrary to the policy as expressed in the Roscommon County Development Plan 1993 which is a contract between the local authority and the people [MacCarthy, J., McGarry vs. Sligo County Council] and which seeks to "steer the settlement structures to its existing towns and villages". The grant of permission is at variance with the planning history of the area. The development, as designed and located with substantial changes in ground levels, would create an obtrusive element in an unspoiled landscape and seriously injure the visual amenities of the area, therefore materially contravening the objectives of the Development Plan. The conditions as drafted are inadequate to ensure the level of protection required beside a proposed Natural Heritage Area and the site map as submitted does not accord with the existing access to neighbouring lands, all of which are under pressure from development specifically targeted by a rural Tax Incentive Scheme.


2. Incorrect site map & planning information

Our examination of the file and site visit have indicated that there are fundamental inconsistencies in the application that we believe should be brought to the Board's attention before dealing with the planning issues this case raises.

The site map submitted to the local authority does not reflect the existing road way that runs through the property and serves the farm buildings to the north, in itself prime development area. It is our understanding from the vendor that this right of way has not and will not be extinguished.

This existing roadway runs through the area marked for the parking of five cars. It then runs between the proposed dwelling and the lake shore in an area marked for regrading. The applicant states in his application [Part II question 16] in reply to the question "Proposed floor level in relation to existing road" that the "Site does not adjoin public road. See contour map for levels." We have been unable to find any such contour map or levels on the files made available to us by Rosscommon County Council.

The site map does not give the distance from the lake shore to the house, making it difficult to determine the exact location of the proposed dwelling. Is it on the site of the existing dwelling?

This access road which is currently being used for agricultural purposes in fact exits through what is shown on the site plan as unbroken landscaping. This road constitutes a significant impact on the site which is not reflected anywhere in the drawings submitted. This road makes impossible the implementation of Condition 6 requiring planting along all boundaries.

Our understanding from the vendor is that this road will continue to be used to service the farm buildings and lands which in turn could be the subject of further applications for development consent. Why is this not reflected in the information provided to the planning authority by the applicant and his agent?

In fact, we understand from a site notice beside the current applicant's site notice (shown above, photo 2) and dated 1 September, 2000, that P. J. Regan intends to build in this im- Mediate area. We have been unable to trace any application relating to this site notice. If the proposed dwelling of P.J. Reegan is in fact the site of the farm buildings serviced by the applicant's road, then Condition 13 sterilizing the remainder of the site is rendered an ineffective development control and the proposed agreement should be drawn up with the overall landowner, not with the purchasers of the plots which are presumably sales subject to planning permission.

We believe these matters should be examined and that they are grave enough in themselves to require a new application to be submitted to the local authority reflecting the roadway to the adjacent farm buildings and lands. This application should include cross sections of the proposal and relate it to any other applications adjacent in terms of access, etc. in the interest of clarity and the orderly control of development.


3 Visual & Ecological Protections

3.1 Development Plan

Even as early as the last adopted Roscommon Development Plan in 1993, it had become obvious that:

"Some of the areas along the shores of the Shannon and its lakes are becoming subject to considerable development pressure. The river is a major tourist resource for the County. It is imperative that its needs are fully assessed and that new tourism proposals will be directed to the most suitable location. Damaging, unsympathetic, or visually intrusive developments, such as sporadic housing, are to be particularly avoided in this area."

The Development Plan's Introduction establishes the importance of the County's 8,654 hectares of water. "The County", the Plan states, "has several areas of highly scenic landscapes, and overall has a pleasing pastoral environment. The rivers and lakes of the County, including Lough Key, are of particular scenic and amenity value."

Only "outside of the pressure areas" can the rural landscape accommodate well-sited individual houses." [Section 5, Settlement].

We would argue that this site is just such a pressure area not only because of its environmental qualities but because it has been included in an area which qualifies for tax incentives. We would suggest that the imposition of Condition 10 requiring the owner to occupy the house first is in itself a recognition of the special status of the area as a Planning Authority only imposes this form of condition on an area which it is trying to protect from adverse commercial developments.

We would argue that the site is protected by virtue of its being part of the Shannon Waterway and that the proposal would seriously conflict with the Specific Objective of the Development Plan as set out on page 23:

"To ensure that development proposals in the area of the Shannon are generally located within existing centers and to prohibit development proposals where it would be detrimental to visual or environmental amenity."

The "Summation" of the Development Plan not only supports the strengthening of towns and villages to protect the landscape, but also foreshadows the need for Guidelines from "other relevant bodies" which this case demonstrates have never been produced for either the Tax Incentive Areas or for Natural Heritage Areas, both of which relate to this site.

"The analysis shows the development strategy required as being one which steers the County's settlement structure, in the best interest of its economic, social, and population growth, towards a strengthening of its town and villages. This, together with a policy of environmental conservation which will protect and enhance Roscommon's environmental assets, will make the County a more attractive area in which to live and work and to visit. A strategy required to achieve this requires both positive development inputs from the Council and other relevant bodies, together with zoning and development control policies to indicate the appropriate locations for private sector proposals."


3.2 Planning History

We would suggest that the Board examine with some attention the planning history of the im- Mediate area and the reasons given for refusals. We had some difficulty with one refusal [98/497] which appears notwithstanding the clear terms of the refusal to have been built in a prominent location. The local authority has stated to us that no appeal was lodged against this refusal.

These refusals reflect the high degree of visual protection afforded to Lough Drumharlow to date. We would also draw the Board's attention to the fact that the NHA post dates the 1993 Development Plan which means that consideration of nature conservation issues was not a statutory duty as it will be when the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 1999 is enacted.

95/492 The site of the proposed on "visually obtrusive materially contravening an objective of the Development Plan".

96/401 "serious visual impact".

98/497 "obtrusive feature on the landscape, thus seriously injuring the visual amenities of the area. The development would therefore materially contravene the objectives of the planning authority."

There are no examples of development consent being given along these shores. This grant of permission by Roscommon County Council is entirely against the planning history of the area and would create a precedent for approval of a number of applications which are pending, encourage further applications and the sale of land for development all along a shore defended to date under the Development Plan by the professional staff of Roscommon County Council.


3.3 NHA Designation

Lough Drumharlow has been designated as a Natural Heritage Area under the Wildlife (Amendments) Bill, 1999. This national designation replaces the Areas of Scientific Interest. [Appendix I: Site Synopsis].

The main objective of the Bill is to provide Statutory protection for Natural Heritage Areas. This protection will not accrue to the sites designated until the legislation is enacted in the Dail. When enacted, the landowners must be notified in order to ensure their constitutional rights are protected before the statutory protection can be invoked. The legislation is currently at the Committee Stage.

Notwithstanding the delays in enactment of this legislation, it would be unreasonable to exclude from the Board's deliberations the provisions of protection which the Government intends to afford this site as this represents national policy, to which the Board must have due regard.

Section 19 provides for the imposition of restrictions on the carrying out of works likely to destroy or to "significantly damage" the NHA. We would draw the Board's intention to the picture below of the elimination of the reedbeds at the foreshore and the leveling that has already taken place even before construction begins [photo 6], surely a notifiable activity in this NHA.

The Minister may consent in writing or works may be carried out according to an agreed management plan. Neither has taken place here. While the developer has indicated that he would be willing to seek the approval of the Minister for his foreshore development, the drawings provided do not give the extent of the proposal and so make any analysis impossible.

Section 24 subsection (2) repeals the existing exemption which until now had excluded planning authorities from consulting with the Minister over nationally protected sites, thereby ensuring that an obligation is placed on the local authority to consult with the Minister in relation to any matter liable to adversely effect an NHA.

The Site Synopsis states that Lough Drumharlow and its surroundings are an "important site" for a discrete flock of rare Greenland white-fronted geese. There is little human activity to disturb the nationally recognized "large complex of habitats" which support this protected species. While they are little studied, 1992-1993 figures indicated a flock of 100 while by 1993-1994 the flock had gown to over 150 individuals. The site was not visited during the EU LIFE Survey in 1995.

It would be premature to grant permission for infrastructure which would facilitate activities which could adversely effect the feeding habits of these white fronted geese until an assurance is received from Duchas that feeding does not take place in this im- Mediate area and that the development does not infringe any "areas of considerable botanic interest" mentioned in the Site Synopsis of Lough Drumharlow.


4: Appeal against Conditions 6 & 10 & note on 2

4.1: Condition 6 re planting

The condition as to planting is not appropriate beside a Natural Heritage Area in that it accepts the augmentation of the existing hedges and screenbelt "as detailed on the submitted plans".

The screening for infill detailed on the site plan is in fact defined as 8' to 10' escalonia. Escalonia is not a native tree and is inappropriate in an area where the lakeshore is defined in the NHA Site Synopsis as often having areas of "considerable botanical interest".

The use of escalonia is also not in accordance with the County Development Plan "Design", p. 36, where it states: "In any landscape scheme trees and shrubs appropriate to the Irish landscape should be used."

The symbol for escalonia used in the area X-X is different from the symbol used for "native deciduous trees, ash beech, oak" and it appears that not only will the area X-X become a escalonia hedge, but the existing native hedgerow is to be augmented by escalonia throughout.

This condition should restrict all planting to native species and a professionally prepared planting plan by a qualified ecologist agreed with the planning authority to ensure the planting accords with the sensitive nature of the site.

Finally, we would draw the Board attention to page 35 of the Roscommon Development Plan 1993, "Siting": "A poor site will not therefore be rendered acceptable by the promise of landscaping."


4.2: Condition 10 re permanent occupancy

The condition as drafted merely requires that the dwelling "shall first be occupied by the applicant or by a member of his im- Mediate family." This condition could be satisfied by a single day's residence.

The application form provided by Roscommon County Council for those seeking planning permission does not seek to establish the nature of the use of a proposed dwelling.

It is essential for sustainable development that local authorities determine and create conditions to control the future use of any development proposal in order to ensure that the little land remaining for development in sensitive locations is not used on second homes or investment vehicles and reserved for genuine local housing needs.

Because of the potential for any development of the Shannon Waterway, its economic and ecological value, priority must be given to applicants who can demonstrate a local housing need.

Does the applicant have an agriculture need in the area? Is the applicant caring for a relative, etc? The applicant is resident in another part of the State. Does the applicant and his family own other properties in the State? This would lessen the social justification for the proposal. Friends of the Irish Environment does not believe that sustainable development supports anyone's right to a second home at the expense of our natural environment.

The purpose of these conditions is to try and ensure in sensitive areas that our scant natural resources are not taken up by second homes and that the available capacity of the landscape to absorb developments is restricted to those who will actually live permanently in these houses.

The failure to establish an genuine local and sustainable need for the proposed development is, because of its sensitive location, sufficient grounds for a refusal. Any condition seeking to assure permanent residency should have a minimum duration of 10 years.

4.3: Percolation area levels

Without a cross section and contour lines, it is difficult to determine if the proposal does not show the percolation area to be higher than the treatment plant. If so, there would be a requirements for pumping which normally renders such proposals unworkable.


5: Proposed Jetty

The condition drafted by the planning authority in relation to the jetty is inadequate to protect the shoreline and ecology of the area. The condition states in full:

"9) The proposed jetty shall have capacity for one boat only and shall not be used to serve more than one boat."

The effect of the current proliferation of application for jetties alone within the tax incentive areas of the River Shannon is a major cause for concern. A long established tourism industry with an international clientele exists in the form of the Shannon cruisers and the facilities that support them. This form of tourism relies entirely on an unspoiled environment and each grant of permission for a jetty erodes the tranquility of the area.

There are no jetties in this part of Dromharlow and the provision of this facility will inevitably encourage further water-born traffic as well as setting a precedent for further damaging developments of this kind.

If permission is given for such a jetty in such a sensitive location, then we would seek detailed drawings and recommend planning conditions such as those imposed by Tipperary (North Riding) County Council on a dwelling house and associated berthing facilities in a similar sensitive location [PLC/20400, 23 April, 1999]:

"(12) Full details of how the soil from the proposed development is to be disposed of shall be lodged and agreed, in writing, with the Planning Authority prior to the commencement of development on the site.

REASON: In the interest of amenity

(13) The proposed berthing facility shall be used for domestic purposes only and shall not be used as a commercial enterprise. Boats using the facility shall be small sailing boats/lakeboats only

REASON: In the interests of amenity and orderly development."


6. Proposed Structures

6.1 Size

It is not clear from the documentation and site drawings provided exactly what is to ultimately occupy the site.

The drawings as presented to the planning authority demonstrate certain anomalies. The garage shown with two cars in it does not have a door of sufficient size to allow two cars to maneuver into it. The proposed storerooms appear to service the house rather than the garage. There appears to be a stairway on the outside wall of the garage. Finally, a wall appears to attach the garage to the dwelling house for no apparent reason.

Not only does the garage appear unable to handle the cars for which it was built, but the walled courtyard outside is bereft of any purpose and car parking provided elsewhere. Surely if the garage was to be used for the parking of cars indoors, the expansive courtyard outside would have been designated for parking?

The Applicant in his initial application form states that the "dwelling house" will be 210 square meters and "outbuildings" 138 square meters. The site map submitted does not accord with these figures at all. It states that the dwelling house will be 102 square meters but that the garage slightly larger - 102.5 square meters.

The 102 square meters figure is under the limit for tax incentives, which are capped in size. But the total area of the garage and the house, however, is not within this cap. The total area of the garage and house - 204.5 square meters - virtually equals the size given in the application for planning permission - 210 square meters. What is really planned?


Form 1: The Application. Note the size of the proposal.


If the Board clarifies this matter to its satisfaction, it should require that any further development normally exempt from planning permission would not be exempt in this sensitive location.


6.2 Architecture

The restoration and reuse of existing vernacular cottages are in the best interests of the finite resources of this relatively undeveloped area. It is clear that this cottage has been expanded several times, given the two internal chimneys. Parts of the dwelling are likely to be of considerable antiquity. The cottage is an example of the style of traditional housing in this area as opposed to the County Down/Georgian pastiche proposed.

A sympathetic architect could design a single storey house that would be in keeping with the history of this building, even if it was necessary to expand the floor area into the hillside behind. The doubling of the height of the proposed building is not acceptable. The use of uPVC for windows and mock Georgian doorways is offensive in such a rural location.

The proposed dwelling is not typical of this geographical region and in both design and finish is not in sympathy with the local architecture. By nature of its scale and design it is out of character with and would materially damage the historical integrity of the local area.


7. Conclusion

The River Shannon is one of the finest river navigations in Europe and is the longest in these islands. If we allow the shores of this wild natural river to be lined with the holiday and retirement homes of the wealthy it will be a tragedy for the future generations who will never see the unparallel beauty of the unspoiled shoreline landscape.

We urge An Bord Pleanala to refuse the application in order that the Development Plan and the planning history of the area may be upheld and a damaging precedent reversed. Otherwise the Rural Tax Incentive Scheme from which this application benefits will inevitably lead to the erosion of the area's amenities, just as it did with the Seaside Tax Incentive Scheme in towns like Lahinch in Clare and Courtown in County Wexford. We respectfully request your Board to influence the meaning of sustainable development itself and ensure the proper planning and development of this nationally important region by refusing this ill-conceived and damaging proposal.

We close with a quotation from Ruth Delaney in her book "By Shannon Shore" [Gill and MacMillan, 1987]. We urge the Board to ensure that this vision remains for the next generation.

"Once through the Tumna Shallows the navigation opens out into the broad waters of Lough Drumharlow, originally called Lough Eidin. It is a fine lake. We have spent many hours exploring this lake, tucking ourselves behind Inishatirra away from the madding crowd. On several occasions we spent a few days anchored quietly here observing a pair of great crested grebe. Seeing grebe at other places along the river always brings back memories of those birdwatching dawns in Drumharlow when the lake waters were like glass and a faint mist lay over the reed lined shore, while gradually the birds woke up and started their busy day and the chorus grew louder."




APPENDIX I:


Natural Heritage Area Site Synopsis


SITE NAME: LOUGH DRUMHARLOW


SITE CODE: 001643


Drumharlow Lough is the lower part of the River Boyle, from Cootehall Bridge, which opens out into a many-armed lake before it joins the River Shannon 5km south of the town of Leitrim. The lake and its surroundings are used by a flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese.


Apart from the open water and aquatic habitats of the lake itself, the main habitats of interest are extensive areas of wet grassland (callowland) which flood in winter, and lakeshore. The lakeshore, in keeping with the other River Shannon lakes, has areas of considerable botanical interest.


The site also includes Hughestown Wood on the lakeshore which has formerly been described separately as a site (1639). There is also a raised bog area of interest which directly borders the flooded callows of the Shannon and grades down to Lough Naseer in the far north of the site.


Several areas of callows, wet rough pasture and improved grassland have been included around the lake as these are used for feeding by a flock of Greenland White-fronted Goose. The flock also uses sites around Lough Allen. Formerly of national importance, the three year mean peak number is 111 (up to 1990/91) and does not now regularly reach the qualifying level.


Drumharlow Lough is a large complex of habitats typical of the Shannon Lakes and the lake and surrounding grasslands are an important site for the Internationally Important Goose species.


The site has not been visited during the present survey.


12 July, 1995